The Augusta Commission agreed Tuesday for the city to enter a month-to-month lease with trustees of Pendleton King Park.
The park’s future has been up in the air since two of three park trustees signed a sales contract to sell the park to Winchester Homebuilders last month for $1.2 million.
City General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie said Tuesday that the trustees’ attorney, Jim Overstreet, assured him of their support entering the month-to-month lease.
Either party can terminate the lease by giving 60 days’ notice.
The sales contract sparked an outcry among the park’s many users and the Pendleton King Park Foundation, which was created to develop and maintain the 64-acre park. The park was left in a trust by Henry Barclay King in 1931 in memory of his son, John Pendleton King II, and the city has leased it for nearly 60 years.
Trustee Clarence Barinowski previously told The Augusta Chronicle he repeatedly attempted to contact city leaders about the lease’s expiration Jan. 1 , but was ignored. Commissioners said Barinowski’s demands for rent or a purchase price were too high.
“I’m hopeful that the city can continue the partnership and the lease agreement for many, many years to come,” said Mayor Pro Tem Mary Davis, who presided over Tuesday’s meeting in Mayor Hardie Davis’ absence. “I want Pendleton King to be able to be enjoyed by the public as it always has.”
The month-to-month lease keeps the park rent at $1 per year and includes blanks for the signatures of Barinowski; Queensborough Bank and Trust, which is the corporate trustee; and Mary Speir, the third of the three trustees.
MacKenzie said the lease allows time for impending actions to take place. Winchester is currently in the due diligence period of the attempted sale. District Attorney Natalie Paine also weighed in on the matter in a commission legal session Tuesday. MacKenzie said he believes legal action is imminent, but won’t be filed by the city.
“Stay tuned,” he said.
Foundation President Jim Blount, who appealed to the commission on behalf of a large crowd of park supporters last week, said the lease indicated the city may be making progress toward saving the park.
The foundation is raising funds in an effort to buy the park and has an attorney working to protect its legal interests.
“Maybe they’ve made some inroads,” Blount said. “That’s encouraging.”
In other business, a commission committee denied applicant Hyung Kim’s request to open a liquor store at 2318 Walden Drive. The application drew about a dozen neighbors in opposition, including an adjoining child care provider.
Commission committees on Tuesday also approved a one-year extension of First Vehicle Services’ contract to maintain most of the city fleet, and passed several traffic roundabout construction projects and a drainage project at Marion Homes by consent.